It’s Beauty Week!

March 17, 2016

french pharmacy picks

Photos and text by Gabrielle. This post is brought to by Groupon — it’s Beauty Week at Groupon and you can find great deals on health, beauty and wellness!

There has been a whole lot of adulting at our house this week — it’s been a steady stream of school forms and budgets and photoshoots and mortgage refinance details and event planning and tax questions and general paperwork. I’m not quite sure why it’s all happening this particular week, but it’s like a perfect storm of red tape. So each evening, when we’ve powered through our responsibilities, we’ve been looking for ways to reward ourselves. (As Tom Haverford says: Treat Yo Self!)

On Monday night we went out for late night pie (it was Pi Day!). On Tuesday night, we stayed up late and watched The Godfather. What will today’s reward be? Luckily, I’ve got a few ideas. I’m working with Groupon to promote their Beauty Week. It’s happening right this minute, and there are tons of local deals to take advantage of. For example, lots of deals on massage!

Ben Blair is all about a great massage. I’m thinking I could book him this hot stone massage or maybe this Swedish massage (what is Swedish massage, by the way?). Doesn’t that seem like a pretty fabulous reward for a packed day of work?

To find your own local deals, go to Groupon and click the local tab. (My local Oakland deals are here.) While you’re checking out your local page, for sure visit the Health, Beauty and Wellness categories to find knock-your-socks off Beauty Week bargains.

Not a massage fan? Me either. (I know, I know, that’s totally weird of me.) But there are tons of other deals. Starting today, from March 17th to the 19th, the focus of Groupon’s Beauty Week is a Final Close Out Sale. What does this mean? How about 80% Off your favorite health & beauty products and services. 80% Off!!

I’ve been browsing Groupon’s product deals, and I’m thinking I could reward myself with a new bottle of Bond No. 9 (one of my favorite perfume lines). Or maybe some of my favorite French beauty supplies — like Avene Eau Thermale, and Nuxe Prodigieuse, and Bioderma Crealine H2O. Luxe beauty supplies are such a treat! And that Bioderma makeup remover is still the best I’ve ever used — so it’s practical too. : )

I’m about to wrap up this little announcement post, but I have so many questions. 1) How do you feel about massages? 2) Have you ever found a particularly awesome deal on Groupon? I have a friend who is basically a Groupon Pro — she checks in daily and finds unbelieveable bargains. 3) Do you ever have weeks like ours? When everything seems to come due at once? 4) What are your favorite ways to reward yourself after a hard day? Or put another way, what are your preferred versions of self-care? I’d love to hear!

P.S. — More on my favorite French beauty products here.


Shamrock Pinwheel Sandwiches & Irish Green Salad for St. Patrick’s Day

By Gabrielle. Photos by Liz Berget for Design Mom

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! Wishing you endless good luck today, and hoping you don’t get pinched. : )

But really, I’m curious — do you do anything special to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day? Historically, I’m all over the place when it comes to marking this day. Some years I’ve gotten up early to dye the milk green and surprise the kids, or made a big feast of corned beef and cabbage. Other years, I’ve sent the kids off to school in a green t-shirt and called it good! It tends to depend on how much we’ve got going on at the time. This week, we’ve got the elementary school Variety Show, plus Ralph’s Eagle Court of Honor, so St. Patrick’s Day isn’t going to get much attention from me at all.

Kid-friendly, All-Green Menu for St. Patrick's Day.

Though happily, I did remember to reach out to Liz Berget and ask her to create an all-green menu. Something kid-friendly and fun, that could be served for lunch or dinner. Since you’ve got to feed yourself and your family anyway, why not get in a celebratory mood and go all green?

All-Green Menu for St. Patrick's Day.

I feel lucky! Let’s get to eating.

Click here for the recipe and notes!


Easy Natural Dye Easter Eggs: Turmeric & Cabbage for Green

By Gabrielle. Photos and styling by Amy Christie.

We’ve used beets to get shades of red. We’ve used onions to get shades of orange. We’ve used turmeric to get shades of yellow. We’ve used cabbage to get shades of blue. But what about greens? Did we forget about greens? Never!

Today, we’re going to mix up one batch of turmeric dye and one batch of cabbage dye, and show you how to dip eggs in both to achieve shades of green. It’s like a lesson in color theory, plus a lesson in Easter egg dyeing, all in one!

Easy Natural Dye Easter Eggs: Turmeric & Cabbage for Green Easy Natural Dye Easter Eggs: Turmeric & Cabbage for Green

For this finale in our natural egg-dyeing series, Amy Christie once again took the gorgeous photos, and she’s got all the tips for us too.

Easy Natural Dye Easter Eggs: Turmeric & Cabbage for Green Easy Natural Dye Easter Eggs: Turmeric & Cabbage for Green Easy Natural Dye Easter Eggs: Turmeric & Cabbage for Green

Let’s get to dipping.

Click here for the simple tutorial!


By Gabrielle.

I can tell you right now, I LOVED what I learned from this home tour. It’s like nothing I’ve really seen — although it did remind me a tiny bit of my adventurous friends at Blue Lily! — and it will most likely open your eyes to a way of living with kids you may never have considered. At least, it did for me.

Laura has a thoughtfulness and humility that just drew me right in, and I hope you feel the same way. She makes such a positive, community-strong case for her unique way of living as it applies to her and her family, so-much-so that it prompted me to stop and consider the housing trends and plans we’ve all been following as a society. Could I ever live in a Vandura with six kids? Probably not. But there’s so much more to this tour than that fact. So much more. You’ll see.

Welcome, Laura!

Hi everyone! I’m Laura. Our family is comprised of me, my partner Jeff, and our 21-month old son Henry. We are full-time musicians who play in the indie pop band Ok Vancouver Ok. We spend up to half of each year on tour driving, flying, and taking trains around the world to play concerts.

When we are not on the road we call Vancouver, Canada home. I was born and raised in this beautiful city and feel excited to watch Henry grow up here. In addition to being in a band, I work as an assistant and contributor for the award-winning Eco-parenting website The Green Mama. In between drumming and breastfeeding, I am toiling away on my laptop trying to research environmentally conscious alternatives to the often toxic trappings of parenthood.

An unconventional fact about our life is that we live in a roomy 1982 GMC Vandura that we have converted into a tiny home on wheels. We bought it on Valentine’s day last year and gut renovated it right away. The van had already been stripped of its original interior and had an after-market raised roof and cool vertical windows. The previous owners were unable to finish the renovation they had planned, and sold it to us in pretty rough shape. It was a rusty, moldy, blank slate. For 1200 Canadian dollars we figured we could gamble on it, and with some time and TLC our investment paid off.

Vans aren’t built to live in; they have little to no insulation and are filled with synthetic materials like plastic and foam. This is an indoor air quality nightmare! Our first order of business was to detoxify, insulate, and build out the interior with wood. We also laid down a new floor and built a raised platform in the back.

Totally amazing. Come look!


Easy Natural Dye Easter Eggs: Use Onion & Turmeric for Orange & Yellow

By Gabrielle. Photos and styling by Amy Christie.

Oh goody! I’ve got more natural egg dyeing for you today. We’ve covered using cabbage to get shades blue. We’ve covered using beets to get shades of red. And today, we’re going to use turmeric and onion to get shades of yellow and orange!

Hit the grocery store for eggs, onions and spice, and you’re all set to become a natural-dye pro.

Easy Natural Dye Easter Eggs: Use Onion for Orange Easy Natural Dye Easter Eggs: Use Turmeric for Yellow Easy Natural Dye Easter Eggs: Use Onion for Orange

Once again, Amy Christie took the gorgeous photos, and she’s got all the dyeing tips we need below.

Easy Natural Dye Easter Eggs: Use Turmeric for Yellow Easy Natural Dye Easter Eggs: Use Onion & Turmeric for Orange & Yellow Easy Natural Dye Easter Eggs: Use Onion for Orange Easy Natural Dye Easter Eggs: Use Onion & Turmeric for Orange & Yellow

Another day, another color. Let’s go!

Click here for the simple tutorial!


A Few Things

March 11, 2016

Walton's Bentonville

Photo and text by Gabrielle.

Hello, Friends. How are you? I am traveling home from Arkansas today. As I mentioned, this is my first visit and I wish I could see more of this gorgeous place! I’ve had a packed schedule while I was here, and I spent almost the whole time at the hotel. The good news is: the hotel is incredibly cool — part lodging, part art gallery. The other good news is that the two times I left the hotel, I also went to amazing places — a restaurant on the town square called Pressroom, and the world class Crystal Bridges museum for a dinner event.

Though I’ve loved my time here, and I’ve loved meeting the super smart, super talented people attending and putting on this event, I’m also super excited to get home to my family. Before I get on the plane, here are a few things I’ve wanted to share:

- This app will identify any plant from a photo.

Medically assisted suicide is now permitted in California. Do you think your state will do something similar?

- Women who changed the world.

- What it’s like to be that fat person sitting next to you on the plane.

- A call to ban homework in elementary schools.

- And another article titled Why Parents Should Not Make Kids Do Homework. Thoughts?

- Why America’s gun situation is so unique.

- Ralph’s latest short video.

- If you changed yours when you married, would you ever consider returning to your maiden name? (Related, I still LOVE the comments here.)

- David Bowie’s notebooks.

I hope you have an amazing weekend. I’ll meet you back here on Monday. I miss you already.




By Gabrielle. Photos and styling by Amy Christie.

This is awesome! Awhile ago, there was a post here on Design Mom about how to dye eggs in a range of blues, using only cabbage. It was such a great post! Totally simple, totally doable, and filled with helpful information.

Easy Natural Dye Easter Eggs: Use Beets for Red Easy Natural Dye Easter Eggs: Use Beets for Red

So I was chatting with Amy Christie, and we decided to continue the series! We’ve got red today, and two more colors to share over the next week or so. I know you’re going to love these posts — and the photos are so gorgeous!

Easy Natural Dye Easter Eggs: Use Beets for Red

Here’s what Amy says:

The post on blue-hue cabbage-dyed eggs from a few years ago is one of my favorite I’ve ever done. Colored eggs happen to be very photogenic. I still have all of them, minus the broken ones (I finally accepted that they would never be whole again). Now, working on the other colors of the rainbow, I am again blown away at their beauty. The hues are stunning and rich and the texture of each shell, unique. I wish I understood more about the chemistry of the egg shell to understand some of the textures and patina and spotting but since I don’t, I’ll just enjoy their beauty.

Easy Natural Dye Easter Eggs: Use Beets for Red Easy Natural Dye Easter Eggs: Use Beets for Red

Ready to dye? Let’s get cracking.

Click here for the simple tutorial!


By Gabrielle. Photos by Ekaterina Ivankina and Ingrid Nielsen.

Amira is an artist in Abu Dhabi, creating her vibrant work up high on the 30th floor of a skyscraper. I wondered what her daily life was like, as an artist, an expatriate, and also as a Muslim who wears the hijab. She was gracious enough to discuss it all with us!

Welcome, Amira!

My day begins at dawn. A small alarm wakes me to get up and make the morning prayer. This is the first of the five prayers we will pray that day, and it is the shortest. It takes less than one minute sometimes and getting out of bed so early to prepare and make it on time, many days feels rough. After that, the sun begins to rise.

We live in a 60-story skyscraper in one of Abu Dhabi’s islands. On the 30th floor, the view is usually breathtaking. The ceiling-to-floor windows throughout our corner bedroom gives us this near-panoramic view of the city, and I draw so much energy from watching the sun rise over the waters and lighting up the terrain. I usually sit on the floor for a few, then do some meditation or journaling. I’ve been trying to be more intentional about my mornings because I tend to get really anxious at the start of the day.

For me, it’s the tug of business matters or social media. So I try and leave this for the middle of my day. I move into my rituals, lighting an incense or candle, making a pot of green tea, and then I head into my studio, which is a converted spare bedroom. I feel such peace in this room, and I love to paint as early as possible. I will break in a new canvas or do a few exercises on paper, often working on the floor with a podcast playing in the background. I feel like the freshness of the morning allows me to take greater risks in my work with no attachment to the end result. I’m just so entranced with the process and humbled that I get to do this for a living.

Compelling thoughts and colors, straight ahead!



Photos and text by Gabrielle. This post is brought to you by TargetStyle. Shop the new Home collection in stores and online.

What a treat! Last week, Target stores stocked a brand new home goods line called Pillowfort, and I’m feeling super lucky that I get to introduce it to you today. It’s adorable and you may have already seen it — my closest store has two full aisles (and the pieces are even cuter in person than they are online).

The idea behind the new label is a focus on products that will excite kids and parents to design together with ease and confidence. The line includes bedding and lamps and wall art and stuffed toys and throw pillows and bins and on and on. There are nearly 1200 pieces in all! Pillowfort features 12 collections and each one speaks to a different kind of kid — think adventurers, creators, and dreamers. You can stick to one collection, or you can mix and match pieces and inspiration from any of the twelve, to combine your taste with your kid’s style.


To introduce the new line to you, I decided to create a sweet little space in a corner of the family room. I started by exploring all the Pillowfort collections, and I was especially drawn to the hanging canopies in the Discovery Den collection and the Marvelous Manor collection.

We’ve never brought a canopy into the house before, but I love the idea of them — I think any kind of fort/hideaway/secret spot is incredibly appealing to kids. I thought it would be fun to hang the canopy in the family room, and then later it might be cute over a bed. The tiny puffball detailing on the edges is terrific and I knew June would gasp at such a pretty sight.


Once I decided on the dip-dye canopy, I started thinking of an overall color scheme. I decided to focus on the minty-turquoise in the canopy, and use a peachy-coral for the other main color. Then I accented with small touches of brown, yellow and navy. I didn’t even attempt to stay with one particular collection! I walked up and down the aisles and mixed and matched to my heart’s content.


For additional turquoise pieces, I pulled a blanket and pouf from our closet, and then added the wire wall art from Pillowfort that says One Of A Kind. It’s adorable and just begs to have sweet little garlands hung from it.

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For peachy-coral, I added this canvas toy bin and this throw pillow. The bin is so practical — an easy way to move toys from the canopy area to any other spot in the family room.


And the pillow is beautiful. It’s well made, and the tiny puffball edging coordinates with the edging on the canopy.

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For brown, I added this happy stuffed bear. (Oscar thinks it’s more of an oversized groundhog.) This bear is just the right size to be both a buddy and a pillow.


Last of all, I brought in this Pillowfort wire basket with navy details. I alway love an oversize basket! They are perfect for piling in blankets and pillows and other cozy items when we’re straitening up the room.

The pieces came together in such a fun way. And one thing I especially loved is that it was easy to accent the space with items we already own because the Pillowfort style works perfectly with the current aesthetic in our home.

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Once I had collected all the pieces, June helped me put the little corner together. It was wonderful to see her eyes light up as we hung the canopy. Immediately, she started bringing items into the space — books and toys for the bin — to make herself at home. She adores the little hideaway and was happy to spend an afternoon ready books and resting — with Mr. Bear as a pillow.

If you’re in the mood to redesign your child’s bedroom, or the play area in your house, I know you’ll find lots of inspiration in the Pillowfort line. Think of it as a great tool to help you work with your kids to design a space you’ll both love!


By Gabrielle.

All you really need to know about Rachael is that she’s one of those wildly entertaining writers who might make you laugh out loud a few times throughout her interview. She’s real and aims to live a debt-free life in her detoxed home. You’re going to enjoy this one, I just know it.

Welcome, Rachael!

Hi everyone! I’m Rachael, also known as Faye, which is my middle name and the name I use for my blog, From Faye). I live in Northern California with my husband David and three little girls. On a normal day, you can find me around the house sweeping up sparkles from princess dresses and bribing my girls with gummy bears to pose for Instagram. I’m a fangirl of Peet’s coffee, high-waisted leggings, and clogs with socks. I grew up in small-town Kansas and migrated to Atlanta when I was eighteen, so I’m an all-American hybrid of West Coast, Midwestern, and deep South.

David is a web developer who works from our home office. He taught himself to program in the 90s and started his web business in a simpler time when all anyone ever wanted was a flaming logo on their home page. Before we dated, he rented a room in my parents’ basement and probably removed about 357 viruses from our family PC while he was there.

One day he started writing me funny emails, which made me fall love with him rather unexpectedly. I did the natural thing and freaked out, avoided him for seven months, and made plans to move to another state. He persisted rather unfruitfully until a mutual friend kindly sat me down and told me I WAS ACTING A FOOL. I realized she was right and told her she could be in our wedding. And she was, nine months later.

Our oldest daughter K.K. is four. She’s our social butterfly who loves to draw detailed pictures and puts together 100-piece jigsaws like a preschool puzzle genius. I frequently find her engineering things like skates from string and toy trains, or making space ships from my Amazon boxes.

Our middle daughter Liberty is three. She is sensitive and nurturing. Her favorite thing to do is pick me bouquets of clover and eat Chipotle Tabasco sauce on everything. Her throwing-up-at-two-am cry sounds exactly like her I-can’t-find-my-pink-tutu cry, so that keeps our adrenaline levels nice and elevated on a regular basis. Bless her.

Evelyn is our baby. She’s nine months old and is pretty easy-going as long as she is sitting in the very center of whatever her sisters are doing at all times. She enjoys eating bits of carpet and being our tiny human vacuum. She’s at the most squeezable, sniffable stage of babyhood. I spend half my day nuzzling her soft head and whispering fervent prayers that her wrist chub takes extra long to turn into a regular wrist.

Lots more to see! Come look!


Muir Woods Design Mom

By Gabrielle. Photo snapped by Olive Blair.

Oh my. This year seems to be stuck on fast forward. I could swear I just wrote a random thoughts post last week, but it’s been over a month! So here is March’s installment. Feel free to share your own random thoughts in the comments.

1) I have a hair appointment today. I’m not doing anything new, just getting it trimmed to it’s original pixie length, but because of the appointment, I suppose hair is on my mind. I’ve had this cut for a couple of months now, and interestingly, I think people react to me much differently with this change to short hair, compared to the reactions I received when I switched from long dark hair to long blonde hair.

Probably the most memorable reaction was a man at the gym. Ben Blair and I work on weights together whenever we can, and the first time we went to the gym when I was sporting my new haircut, a man approached Ben and said, “I can’t believe you let her cut her hair!”

Oh my. I was standing right there, working with some weights, and I was totally speechless. It had never occurred to me for even a second to ask Ben for “permission” to cut my hair. Hah! It made me wonder, do you have someone in your life who has strong opinions about your hair? Someone you feel like would need to “let you” cut your hair?

The second thing is that strangers are super chatty with me now. Not sure what it is, but many, many more people start up conversations with me when I have this pixie cut, compared to when I had long hair (dark or light). Have you ever experienced something like that? Different reactions from strangers when you have a new haircut?

2) Also related to hair, I’ve noticed I’m much more diligent about wearing makeup and earrings with this hair cut, and I’ve been wearing more black. As it happens, I cleaned out my closest — Kon Mari-style — a couple days before I decided to get the pixie. And now I wonder: would I have kept different things if I had cleaned the closet after the cut? Would they have sparked joy?

One last hair thought: my daily maintenance has gone way, way down time-wise. But my intermittent maintenance (think cut and color), have gone way up. Yes, I no longer need blowouts, or spend much daily time on my hair. But, I can’t push a hair appointment to 6 weeks or longer. I have to go every 3 to 4 weeks. No skipping!

3) Tomorrow, I’m headed to Bentonville, Arkansas for work. I’ll be there till Friday. I’ve never been to Arkansas before and I’m hoping I’ll get to do at least a little bit of sight-seeing while I’m there. Do you live there? Or have you ever visited? When you only have a little bit of time do you have a sight-seeing strategy? I won’t have a car, so I’m thinking I’ll hire a taxi/uber and take a little driving tour.

4) Today is Ben Blair’s birthday. To celebrate, we’re going to see the Warriors play! We won two tickets at the elementary school auction for tonight’s game. When I realized the tickets were for a game on Ben’s birthday, I was vigilant in checking back on the auction to make sure we hadn’t been outbid. Hah! Do you follow basketball? I haven’t paid attention for years, but living in Oakland, it’s pretty easy to become a big fan of Steph Curry.

5) I’m loving the rain this week! We have skylights in several places in this house, and the rain pitter-pattering on the glass as we fall asleep is pretty darn wonderful. If it was freezing, I’m sure I wouldn’t love the rain so much, but the temperature has been pretty mild, and we all know we need the rain here in California, so it’s easier to be patient with a week’s worth of soggy days.

6) Related, we need to get our gutters cleaned. The rain has them overflowing! I’ve never had this done before and I’ve never done it myself. I was wondering why it is I’ve never had to deal with clogged rain gutters, but growing up in St. George, we didn’t get much rain, and we didn’t have a ton of trees providing leaves that would clog the gutters, so it wasn’t part of my growing up at all. And since then, I suppose we haven’t lived anywhere with a ton of trees.

But in this yard, with so many trees, and leaves that fall year round instead of seasonally, I can see clogged gutters are inevitable! Ours even have mesh over them to prevent the leaves from getting in, but it doesn’t always work. : ) I’ll make a phone call today and see what I can learn. I really have no idea what to expect on either pricing or timing, so I’m curious. It’s not a big deal, it’s just something I’ve never done before so I’m thinking about it. A little reminder that each house is individual and has it’s own needs and quirks.

Have you ever had to clear your gutters? Did you DIY it, or hire it out? Any advice?

7) We are in the process of refinancing our mortgage and going from a 30-year loan to a 15-year loan. The paperwork is killing me — when you’re self-employed, there are always extra layers of red tape. Nothing big to report here, just another thing on my mind.

8) Are you over political discussions at this point? Avoiding Facebook? Politically, I try hard to make sure my Facebook feed is representative of the actual people and viewpoints in my life. I have lots of both republicans and democrats in my life, people that I love, and I want to make sure I’m hearing from both sides when I’m online. I grew up with a democrat dad and a republican mom, plus, I’ve voted both republican and democrat myself over the years, so it’s normal to me to converse with people of different viewpoints. It’s less normal (and harder for me to understand) for me when I meet someone who only votes republican, or only votes democrat.

But the interesting thing about this particular election cycle, is that no one in my Facebook feed is pro-Trump. Not a single person. Or if they are, they aren’t vocal about it. Based on the poll numbers, it seems like I should be seeing quite a bit of pro-Trump, so now I’m realizing my Facebook friends aren’t as politically diverse as I’d previously thought. Not sure what to conclude from that. Mostly just fascinated.

I think that’s it for now. Please feel free to respond to anything here, or bring up your own topic. I always love hearing what’s on your minds!

 P.S. — I post my random thoughts each month. You can find them all here.


A Few Things

March 4, 2016

Screen Shot 2016-03-04 at 9.40.57 AM

Photo and text by Gabrielle.

Hello, Friends. How are you? Has it been a good week? We got back from the funeral in Utah on Monday afternoon. It was a really good funeral. I feel like I should report on it, but part of me doesn’t want to — I’m still holding it in my head and heart and thinking about what I heard and learned. It’s like I’m feeling protective of those memories — related, I realized I’ve been taking a bit of a social media break as well.

But if I set aside the mourning, it’s been a good week. A few highlights: Maude had a jazz band concert at Yoshi’s on Monday night. Yoshi’s is a famous Oakland club and it’s very cool that she got to play there. One of the toilet’s broke on Monday night too, but Ben Blair fixed it in a flash. Because he’s awesome like that. Oscar and Betty tried out for the school variety show on Tuesday afternoon. Betty sung La Vie en Rose in English and French. Oscar did a magic show with his friend.

More highlights: The Teachur kickstarter ended on Tuesday — over-funded! I feel so grateful to you, because I know many readers supported the project with pledges and by sharing the link. Thank you! I’m super excited to see Teachur grow and develop. In fact, Ben Blair is presenting on Teachur at a Blockchain conference next week! We also got to visit the new house of my brother Jared and his wife Liz (of Say Yes) on Tuesday, who just moved from San Francisco to Oakland. (Three cheers for even closer cousins!) And we won “A Year of Pies” at the school auction and the first pie was picked up this morning — banana cream.

Even more highlights: We tackled some mold on our bathroom ceiling, which we were worried about, but it turned out to be a very easy cleanup — the trickiest part was maneuvering the ladder in the small space. : ) Ben Blair’s brother Jim is staying at our house for a few days. Jim is enthusiastic about life in general and he’s always fun to hang out with. My mom arrives this afternoon and she’ll stay for the weekend too. Yay for visits from Grandma! Starting today, a full week of rain is predicted — always a good thing in drought ridden California.

And the last highlight? Today is Maude’s 17th birthday! We all got a bit teary when we realized this was her last year of childhood. I can’t think about it or I’ll start crying again — but I can tell you that it’s really delightful to be the parent of Maude Blair.

See what I mean? It was a good week and it’s shaping up to be a good weekend. I hope the same is true for you! I’m off to wrap some birthday gifts, but before I head out, here are a few things I’ve wanted to share with you:

- What if you could live 60% longer?

- How we hand down stereoptypes.

- Yes! A ban on slave-produced goods.

- Why it’s so expensive to be poor.

- Ever heard of hay-bale gardening?

- The time to stop using the r-word is long overdue.

- Single by choice.

- An essay on assisted suicide and right-to-die laws.

- Curriculum for white Americans to educate themselves on race and racism.

- Hah! I have both sent and received many of these emails. (Warning: some cussing.)

I hope you have a wonderful weekend. I’ll meet you back here on Monday. I miss you already.


P.S. — Did you see Blye Faust win the Oscar?! I was funeraling on Sunday night, so I watched it on delay and didn’t find out till Tuesday. So fun to have her here on Design Mom just days before!


hope print sunshine garden etsy

By Gabrielle. Hope print here.

Jenifer Moss is intent on sharing her story, which is not — in her own words — your typical, magical delivery. She gave birth to her eighth child on an operating table surrounded by 40 surgeons, nurses, techs, and other people prepared to save her life. She survived a recovery that took over a year.

The condition she had, Placenta Accreta, is becoming more and more common. Every time Jenifer hears of a mother dying in childbirth, she wonders if it was a case of undiagnosed Accreta. She’s here to spread her knowledge, and give others hope. I like that intention very, very much. Welcome, Jenifer!

Jenifer’s story, straight ahead.


DIY: Coding Jewelry

March 2, 2016

coding-jewelry 11

By Gabrielle. Photos by Amy Christie for Design Mom.

Last month I went to a lecture about girls and tech given by Cynthia Bailey Lee of Stanford University. Cynthia is a mom of two, and teaches C++ programming, computing theory, processor architecture, and number theory. Specifically her lecture was about getting our daughters and nieces and any other young girls in our lives to get more excited about working with code, and making the coding world more accessible.

One idea she had was making jewelry based on ASCII code. (And if you don’t know what ASCII code is, no worries. It’s all explained below.) I was really taken by this idea! I called Amy Christie and we brainstormed options for both kid jewelry and grown up jewelry (because hey! it’s not too late for us grownups to learn coding either).

The basic idea is to use beads to write your name or initials or a favorite word or a secret message in code. It’s so cool!

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I adore how these pieces turned out. I think this would be a really fun activity for a girls night out or a birthday party. This project is the perfect combination of smart, nerdy and pretty. : )

Amy is a jewelry pro and added clasps and hooks to all these pieces, which really step them up quality-wise. But if you find jewelry work intimidating, or try to avoid anything that requires needle-nose pliers, you can still make similar versions. Just use elastic thread and knot it well when you’re done. Easy peasy!

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Before we jump into the DIY, let’s talk a little bit about code and share some learning resources for the kids. Here’s what Cynthia, the lecturer, writes about ASCII:

“As I’m sure you’ve heard before, inside a computer, EVERYTHING is numbers — specifically, binary numbers. As far as the computer is concerned, every photo in this post is just a bunch of binary numbers. This blog post, your grandma’s voice and face on Skype, all the movies you watch on Netflix — all these things are just binary numbers.

The computer doesn’t actually distinguish between these things in storing the data or performing computations. Software imposes our human interpretations on the data — it could interpret the exact same binary number as a high pitch sound in one case, as a shade of dark green in another, and in yet a third case as a letter of the alphabet.

When people agree on what interpretation we want to impose on different collections of binary numbers, it gives them meaning in that context. We call these agreed-upon interpretations encoding schemes or just encodings. This activity explores an encoding named ASCII, which is one common way of interpreting binary numbers as letters of the alphabet.”

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And here is more from Cynthia on ASCII specifically:

“ASCII is abbreviated from American Standard Code for Information Interchange. ASCII codes represent text in computers, communications equipment, and other devices that use text. Most modern character-encoding schemes are based on ASCII, though they support many additional characters. ASCII was the most common character encoding on the World Wide Web until December 2007, when it was surpassed by UTF-8, which is fully backward compatible to ASCII. The ASCII code for capital letters is shown here:


Unlike base-10 numbers, which can have the digits 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, binary (base-2) numbers can only have the digits 0 and 1 (we usually call the binary digits bits). On this cheat-sheet card, the black squares represent 0 and the white represent 1.”

We also made a printable sheet for you to make things really easy and the link to that is below.

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Okay. I think we’re ready. Let’s get nerdy!

Full tutorial, and more coding resources, straight ahead!


Design Mom Family Dinner04

By Gabrielle. Photos by Katrina Davis for Design Mom (back when I was still blonde!). This post is brought to you by Mealtime Movement.

Let’s talk good stuff like food and kids and family and connection. (Just writing that makes me feel good!) Smucker’s reached out about their new Mealtime Movement, and after about 10 seconds on the site, I was already hooked. The focus isn’t on fancy meals, or a traditional dinnertime. It’s about using food as a way, and as a reason, to connect with your kids, to your family. And I love that idea, because one of the first things you learn when you become a parent, is that your child is going to need to eat multiple times day forevermore. Dinnertime happens every single day.

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It can feel relentless, I know. But the relentlessness is also an advantage. It’s an opportunity. It means that every single day, even when your kids get older and busier, you’ll get a chance to connect with them. Because everyone needs to eat. Every one needs to eat every day.

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So at some point in our parenting journey, we decided we might as well look for ways to make the most of mealtime. Three things we’ve learned so far along the way:

1) The value, and the opportunity, isn’t just found in the actual sitting down and eating. We consider “dinnertime” to include the preparation, the eating, and the cleanup. And we’ve found there is quality time in all three of those categories. Picture stress-free conversations when you’re chopping vegetables side-by-side — busy hands and calm minds. Think of the casual chatting that happens over dishes, while everyone is satiated and happy. Think of the chance to model good behavior and good manners through out the tasks and the meal. Think of the repetition required for a child to learn how to properly wipe down a countertop or sweep a floor — and how daily eating can provide that repetition.

So we don’t call our kids to the kitchen when it’s time to eat. We call them when it’s time to start cooking. : )

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2) As I mentioned earlier, feeding the kids — heck, feeding yourself — is relentless. And sometimes it’s hard to give it any mental energy. There are days where we just don’t have it in us to come up with a menu, or make a trip to the grocery store. So we’ve had to come up with some tried and true “pantry” recipes to fall back on.

Our suggestion is to come up with at least three meals you can make with food you can keep on your pantry shelves. Maybe a pasta dish with sauce made from canned tomatoes. Maybe a split pea soup. Simple recipes that you’ve committed to memory, and that you know your family will eat. Maybe it’s even a no-cook option like crackers and olives and pickles and cheese and salami. When you have one of those days where you don’t want to think about food, you’ll know you’ve got a meal waiting for you in the cupboard.

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3) There are nights when the family feels chatty, and there are other times when it’s harder for people to relax. So we like the idea of having a conversation tradition — something flexible, not rigid — to facilitate conversation. You could let a different person pick the topic of conversation each night. You could take turns reviewing the food as if you’re a judge on a Food Network show. You could go around the table, each person sharing 2 good things and 1 bad thing that happened that day.

You might come up with 10 different conversation traditions and choose a different one each night! Talking and connecting over food is one of life’s great pleasures. Having a few prompts at the ready simply helps you make the most of it.

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What about you? What are mealtimes like at your house these days? Do you have a no screens at the table rule? Do you play music in the background? Do you like eating at the dinner table, or do you prefer to keep it more casual and eat at the kitchen island or kitchen counter? (We do a lot of island eating at our house.) Are you in the baby stage? Do you have gloomy teens that need those conversation prompts? Do you love cooking? Do you dread cooking? I’d love to hear what it’s like for you! I always love to hear what you have to say.

And if you’re looking for more ideas, definitely check out the Mealtime Movement site. The video made me tear up!


By Gabrielle. A few of the gorgeous family photos were shot by Momoko Fritz.

When Miggy sent me her interview answers, she apologized for the length and mentioned she could probably write forever about her special life and family. I wished she would. You will, too.

Welcome, Miggy!

I’ve been married to a tall, dark handsome fellow for over ten years. My husband is a dentist and is very science minded, but also loves working with his hands, specifically woodworking. (Fact: he made our bed from scratch! So keep an eye out for it in the pictures below.) My husband and I compliment each other well (read: total opposites) and we enjoy working on projects together. (He made the bed, I made the quilt.) We actually met online in 2004, but since that was still VERY new we didn’t cop to it until a few years after we were married!

From first date to married was eight months and then two weeks after our wedding we moved from Provo, Utah to New York City. Let me tell you, that was a lot of change at once! But ten years in and I think we’re doing pretty well.

Our first daughter was born in New York City and I think that was the best place in the world to become a mom. I absolutely loved it and think back on those days with so much fondness. NYC definitely has a piece of my heart. Our oldest daughter, who goes by the moniker PSP on our blog, is the ideal older sister: responsible, smart, kind, adventurous, and she’s developing quite the sharp wit!

We then moved to Cincinnati, Ohio where we had our second daughter, which was probably the best place for her to be born as she was born with physical disabilities. Cincinnati Children’s hospital is one of the best hospitals in the country. Our middle daughter, whom we call Lamp on the blog, has what is known as limb differences, and is affected on all four limbs. This, of course, means that her limbs are different. Accessibility and doing things a little differently are the norm for our family. Personality wise, she is a spitfire and keeps us all on her toes! I always say that what she lacks in limbs, she makes up for in personality.

A couple years later we moved to San Antonio, Texas where our third (and God-willing) last daughter, blog named Zuzu, was born. She’s the perfect little caboose to our clan and is the perfect mixture of adorably sweet and infuriatingly mischievous. While I never saw myself as an all-girl mom, it’s an identity I love and claim.

There’s a lot to love in this one. Come read!


Block-Color Wrapped Jar Pots for Succulents | Design Mom

By Gabrielle. Photos by Amy Christie for Design Mom.

Craving spring? February lasting just a bit too long (Hello, Leap Day!)? Well here’s a happy, easy project to bring a little sunshine and color into your day.

These little twine wrapped planters are perfect for brightening your home. I like the idea of a collection of them on the coffee table, or perhaps lining a windowsill. And they would also be darling as party favors or anytime gifts. Another idea: I can picture these as place-setting holders — you could hang the name name cards from an extra length of twine.

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However you choose to use them, you’ll be glad you made this easy project! Amy Christie shot the gorgeous photos for these pretty little pots. Here’s what she has to say:

I live in Minnesota and the weeks of “acceptable winter time” have passed. We’ve now entered “it needs to be spring immediately” time. We’re getting there but it’s slow progress. In the past week, we’ve experienced sunshine and gray skies, rain, snow flakes and frost. So I’m trying to channel my inner springtime by filling my home with living things. Succulents are my favorite and so simple to care for. All the variations are so cute!

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I love to tuck succulents into little jars. I always seem to have a variety of sizes laying around because I wash and save empty jam jars, pickle jars, and peanut butter jars, knowing I’ll be sure to find a good use for them at some point. And this is the perfect sort of project!

To make them really pop for spring, we wrapped them with colorful jute string we found in the craft store. It’s really easy and they are easy on the eyes, right? : )

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Let’s get to wrapping. Click here for the simple tutorial!


A Few Things

February 26, 2016

Photo and text by Gabrielle.

Hello, Friends. How are you? I’m writing to you from Provo, Utah. We drove across the Nevada desert yesterday and arrived last night. Today, we are helping out with funeral preparations for Ben’s father, and this evening is the viewing. Lots of tender feelings happening around here.

I thought it would be good to share a favorite Olive Us episode today. It’s called Kish and it was written by Ben’s father — he narrates it too! What a wonderful thing it is to be able to hear his good voice. And what a treasure for my kids that they have this amazing project they worked on with their Grandfather.

The Story of Kish - A video by OliveUs.TV

Speaking of my kids, this is the first funeral most of them have attended. We’ve tried to talk them through what to expect, but until you attend one, I think it’s a bit hard to imagine. I still remember my first funeral quite clearly. I was 8 years old and it was a service for Great Gram (her actual name was Rachel Evans, but I only knew her as Great Gram). I used to stop at her place after school and hang out and I was absolutely heart broken when she died. Do you remember your first funeral?

I need to be off now, but before I go, I have a few things I’ve wanted to share. It’s an extra long list because I missed last week’s post. I hope it’s not too overwhelming!

- Having it all kind of stinks.

DIY holograms!

- Now I’m thinking about a moral bucket list.

- Yikes. This study says, “Male students assumed their male classmates knew more about course material than female students — even if the young women earned better grades.”

- This is new — headphones that get you high on dopamine.

- They grow 6000 lbs of food on 1/10th an acre at their Los Angeles home.

- How we used to die, and how we die now.

- Learn a language and change your brain!

- Is it worth it?

- School lunches around the world.

- This seems like a no-brainer. I wonder if other states will follow suit.

- Congrats to Cool Mom Picks on 10 years!!

- Does reading more equal less busy?

- Turns out creative people’s brains really do work differently.

- A year of saying yes to everything.

- A collection of resources for teaching social justice.

- The Dowager Countess’ best lines.

- Period pain can be as painful as a heart attack!

- Only a few days left of the Teachur Kickstarter. Will it fund?

I hope you have a wonderful weekend. I’ll be soaking up as much family time as I can and treasuring every memory of Robert Wallace Blair. I’ll meet you back here next week. I miss you already.


P.S. — One more thing. There’s another video that Ben’s father helped us with. We based our Little Red Riding Hood on a version of the story he had translated. Here it is if you’d like to see. It’s pretty darn charming:



Photos and text by Gabrielle. This post is sponsored by Pier 1.

How does this sound: You share an Instagram that features a product from Pier 1, tag it with #pier1lovecontest, and you’re entered to win one of five $5000 gift cards. That’s right: 5 gift cards! Each one worth $5000! I’m thinking that sounds pretty darn terrific. And you’re in luck, because that is exactly what is happening right this minute. Pier 1 has a huge contest going on and I think it’s going to be right up your alley.

The idea is all about finding inspiration and sharing the love. Pier 1 loves to inspire their customers — maybe you found the perfect idea for the spring baby shower you’re hosting. Or perhaps you found the ideal magazine storage when you were browsing in-store. Or maybe these colorful floor poufs are your kids’ favorite addition to the play room. Whatever it is, Pier 1 wants to see how they helped spark your creativity!

So take a photo of a Pier 1 product in your home — any Pier 1 product, old or new — then share it on Instagram by February 29th, 2016. Pier 1 is going to pick 5 of their favorites and give each winner a $5,000 gift card!

Oh, and you can enter one new photo each day of the contest!


I can hear you asking already: “But what if I’m not on Instagram?”

Well don’t despair. If you’re not on Instagram, you can still upload your photo — find the upload link here.


I’m so excited by the contest that I started taking pictures of all the Pier 1 items in the house. Like the giant turtle bowl that is for sure the happiest possible addition to our coffee table (there are turtle salad plates too!). And the silk flower napkin rings — aren’t they gorgeous? It’s so much more fun to set the table when it includes this kind of fabulousness.

Then, there’s the new embroidered-all-over throw pillow that I couldn’t resist. And the sunshine-y flower plates, too. I found the whole stack in-store on clearance! (There are similar on sale here and here.) Oh. And don’t forget the little green teapot. Maybe it needs its own photo. : )


Want to get in on the fun? Pull out your phone and get snapping! You can find all the contest details here.

As I mentioned, any Pier 1 item you have will work just fine. Take a photo, tag and share it on Instagram (be sure you’re following Pier 1 too!), and you’re entered to win. And remember, you can enter once a day, every day, from now through the 29th if you like! I can’t wait to see your gorgeous photos — I’m sure the hashtag is going to be inspiration overload (in the best possible way). And I hope you win the contest — I’m wishing you all the luck in the world!


By Gabrielle. Nicole Rocklin (l.) and Blye Faust (r.), the production duo behind Spotlight.

My dear friend Isabel of Alpha Mom fame introduced me to Blye Faust, one of the producers of the critically-acclaimed, award-winning movie, Spotlight. Have you seen it yet? Ben Blair and I saw it a few weeks ago and we haven’t stopped talking about it. The story itself is completely jaw-dropping, and it’s told so well in the film that we walked away in a sort-of stunned daze. If you’re planning on watching the Oscars this weekend, it’s nominated for six Academy Awards, including Best Picture. Here’s the trailer, if you’re interested.

That alone would be enough to make this interview with Blye interesting, but there’s even more to her! Besides her production company, she has been an attorney and runs an interior design studio in San Francisco. Those are some very cool and very diverse career paths. So I wanted to know all the important bits of her daily life, from how she shifts careers so seamlessly and so well…to what she’s wearing to the Oscars!

Thank you, Blye, for being here with us during this especially busy season for you. Enjoy, everyone!

Hi there! I’m Blye, a producer with Rocklin/Faust and an interior designer with byblye.

Mornings are early around here. I try to get up at 5:00 am to beat my two little guys — we’ve got a four year old and a ten-month old — and get a jump on planning out my day before the chaos hits around 6:00 am. I usually sneak off to my office at this hour and enjoy the quiet as it’s most likely the last I’ll have until work is finished and the kiddos head to bed at the end of the day.

I’m one of the producers of Spotlight. I’ll admit that my partner, Nicole, and I were absolutely floored when we officially secured the rights to the Spotlight team. We were young producers and had no credits to our names. There was no book, no script, no cast. Just the story.

I think our passion for the story and our honest assurance that we would dedicate ourselves to making sure we told it in the most authentic way possible came through at the end of the day, and Marty, Robby, Ben, Mike, Sacha, and Matt all took a huge leap of faith and put their trust in our hands.

I think there are really two moments that stand out the most in the making of Spotlight, among many equally incredible ones along the way.

Our first day of shooting took place at none other than Fenway Park. I just remember arriving straight from the plane, in my first trimester of pregnancy with my younger son, having this wave of emotion come over me as I walked through the ballpark and into the stands where our crew was setting up. It was still fairly empty as it was a bit before the game was scheduled to start. I remember thinking that I couldn’t have scripted this moment for the beginning of this film any better. And then, when we were finally ready to start and Tom called his first “Action!”, the tears came.

The second unforgettable moment was at our premiere in Venice, Italy at the Venice Film Festival. We all really had no idea how the film would be received in this most Catholic of countries, and had considered that there might be some possible backlash. We went into the screening really with very open expectations. But by the end of the movie, you could hear a pin drop. And as the credits started to roll, we received a standing ovation that lasted all the way through the end crawl. Big time emotion and a moment that I will definitely never forget.

We did expect to get some kind of pushback from the Church or the Catholic public at large. But, like the Globe when they first broke the story, we never got it. At least, not in any meaningful, organized, or targeted manner. There was a feeling of great responsibility with this story and the need to get it right and to tell it in the most truthful way possible, which I think we all collectively achieved at the end of the day. And for that, I couldn’t be prouder.

Besides my entertainment career, I’ve also been an attorney and currently own an interior design studio called byblye. It’s always scary to take on new things! But I think you just have to pick a direction that feels right in terms of how you want to live your life on a daily basis, dive in, and just start learning as you go.

There’s something incredibly satisfying about proving to yourself that you can continually take on new challenges and learn from them in terms of both your successes and your failures along the way.

My favorite rooms to design are pretty much a toss-up between living rooms and kids’ rooms. Living rooms because they are the perfect place to get out the real story behind a person or a family. I think telling a family’s story through a room’s design is absolutely necessary, which is probably my filmmaking inclinations coming into play! Kids’ rooms are wonderful because they are pure fun and you can let go and push the boundaries with colors, patterns, and selected objects.

I think there’s no space that is complete without artwork. And it doesn’t have to be expensive or a collector’s item, but it should be unique and say something about you!

More often than not, we are working with our clients within an existing framework rather than starting from scratch with bare, empty rooms or homes. We absolutely adapt our style to fit our clients’ needs, but at the same time we obviously bring our own aesthetic and point of view to things. We always leave our imprint on a project even if sometimes it may be subtle!

I have definitely become incredibly busy with my film and television work, but I am lucky to have an amazing team at byblye who can really run the day to day business, freeing me up to utilize my limited time overseeing the more high-level creative aspects on our projects. This said, I absolutely plan on continuing both businesses for as long as I am able — and the cool thing is that I really do get to tell stories through both, which is what I love to do every day, all day long.

Everyone always wants to know what you’re wearing to the Oscars. It’s always first on everyone’s mind! I’m wearing a dress from the amazing Bay Area designer, Karen Caldwell.

It’s an exciting time, for sure. Every year Diane von Furstenberg hosts a pre-Oscar luncheon at her home for the female nominees. I must say that receiving that invite is right up there with the Oscar invite itself!

We attended the Oscar nominees luncheon last week. At the end of the lunch they call everyone up for that year’s class photo. Standing there packed in for a photo-op with such icons as Steven Spielberg, Lady Gaga, and other famous names is about as surreal as it gets.

If I could give advice to anyone coming up, it’s to find what you are passionate about — WHATEVER that may be! — and go for it! And don’t be discouraged if it takes a while to figure it out. The trick is to continually engage in the world around you and also figure out what you DON’T want to do, which is just as important.

Also, follow your gut. While I usually have done a pretty good job of heeding this, there have been times when I haven’t and invariably, I ended up doing something I knew I shouldn’t have in the first place.


Good luck this weekend, Blye! I am rooting for you!

Is anyone hosting an Oscar’s party? I think it would be so fun to fill out at-home ballots and predict the winners, and maybe even dress up. Who’s in?

P.S. – Are you interested in sharing your unique life with us? Let me know! It’s a lot of fun…I promise! 

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